The hidden culprits of food waste can occur at all stages of the food lifecycle – before, during and after the event.
Click on a life cycle stage in the tabs above to start locating the typical hidden culprits for prepared food vendors.
Some sources of food waste exist before you even get to you event.
Ask yourself these questions:
Menu designing: Is your menu leading to wasted food? Are there too many options? Do you always have one ingredient leftover?
Estimating stock needs: Are you over-ordering for your events? Do you take into account the weather and what other stalls will be present?
Storing: Do any ingredients spoil or lose freshness before they are used? Do you ever have cold chain failures or unexpected contamination?
Transporting: Do any ingredients get damaged or spoiled during transportation?
Pre-preparing: Do you end up with offcuts or excess ingredients when preparing food before the event?
Most food waste identified by stallholders occurs during the event.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Unpacking: Do ingredients ever get damaged or dropped when unpacking them at your stall?
- Preparing: Do you have many offcuts when preparing ingredients? Do all your prepared ingredients get used up by the end of the day?
- Display: Do you prepare and display samples that are thrown out at the end of the day?
- Cooking: Do you cook in batches, which doesn’t all get sold? Do you ever burn or damage your product so that it can’t be sold?
- Serving: Do you notice that customers often don’t eat the whole serve? Are portions too big, or are there too many side dishes?
Even once the event is finished, there may still be sources of food waste.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Surplus: Do you ever have unused ingredients or product leftover that you can’t resell at another event?
- Re-packing: Do you have equipment and materials to take home and reuse ingredients?
- Transporting: Do reusable ingredients or product ever get damaged, or experience cold chain failure, during transport home after the event?
- Lack of market: Do you ever take home reusable ingredients or product, that are thrown out because there is no upcoming event?
In the busy life of a stallholder, these tips and solutions are designed to be included as part of your wider environmental commitments to customers and event organisers, or a starting point for embarking on a journey to becoming a waste wise stallholder.
Once you’ve located where you might have sources of food waste to save, click on the relevant areas below to see what you can do to start saving now!
- Conduct a waste audit and use data to identify opportunities for savings, review and revisit this data on an anniversary date
- Chat with staff about types of food waste that can be avoided
- Modify or remove dishes with lower sales than others to ensure your menu does not offer too many or too broadly focused options
- Consider several small batches rather than one or two large batches
- Challenge yourself or your staff to incorporate un-used parts of ingredients in existing meals
- Use the same ingredients in more than one menu item resulting in the use of fewer ingredients overall
- Use local ingredients where possible – local means seasonal, less miles for food to travel and less opportunity for damage or spoiling
- Replace fresh with frozen or dried ingredients to minimise spoilage during transportation or storage
- Monitor any ingredients approaching use by and best before dates as an opportunity for a special or a ‘dish of the day’
Estimating stock needs
- Document stock and create an ordering routine – consider software or simple spreadsheet for trends and patterns in stock assign a ‘purchasing manager’
- Look back at patterns of sales – weekly or seasonal variations, peak and low stock to anticipate and plan for future quantities
- Check if stock deliveries are frequent enough or too frequent to reduce over supply and minimise spoilage
- Order precisely based on ingredients already in stock to avoid having too much
- Avoid offcuts that could have been eaten, order fish and meat cuts to specification
- Develop relationships with suppliers and begin the conversation about avoiding food waste – you might be surprised at what you learn or what you can teach
- Save money by buying in bulk but be sure to check your storage facilities and stock use by dates
- Order fruit and vegetables in season to find cheaper, better tasting produce that will spend less time travelling to you and therefore last longer
- Link purchasing lists to menus to compare stock and sales
- Check the use-by / best before dates of delivered stock and return any that are past their dates
- Buy locally when possible – produce that spends less time travelling to you has less time to spoil, is fresher and will last longer when it reaches you
- Keep perishables fresh and safe during transport and check suppliers and your own distribution equipment (refrigeration, heating etc.) is not contributing avoidable food waste
- Ensure the way you handle stock does not cause damage – automation compared to manual handling may be a culprit (or vice versa)
- Send back damaged goods received from suppliers so they are aware that they are creating avoidable food waste
- Create a shelf/storage plan and revisit frequently to ensure it reflects your menu- documentation can save you time and money in the long run
- Group items in your storage area to correspond with purchasing list to minimise handling and the opportunity for damage
- Ensure delivered food is stored quickly and appropriately to minimise damage or spoiling, especially fresh produce
- Regularly check temperatures and seals on fridges and freezers –a quick check each month could save you not only on waste bills, but also on energy bills
- Ensure your storage area space is dry and clean
- Review your shelving practices: avoid damage from stacking fragile food items on top of each other, assign bottom shelves for liquids and food that might spill
- Ensure new stock is placed at the back of the fridge, freezer or storage area to avoid the chance for spoilage
- Be sure to use stock approaching its use by date first
- Store left-over food in airtight containers to preserve and stop odours getting into other products and spoiling them
- Vacuum-pack products (e.g. meat) to extend shelf life and/or reduce odour
- Consider a frozen stock list, date labels on food and correct sealing to avoid ‘freezer burn’
- Longer storage life can reduce spoilage that sometimes occurs with fresh produce
- Avoid excess trimming of ingredients – use as much as you can of the ingredient e.g. meat, fish, herbs
- Repurpose trimmings -edible meat trimmings can make pates, soups and stocks (slow cooking), vegetable trimmings bake into chips or roast seeds
- Invent opportunities for re-using excesses during preparation e.g. freeze excess berries for smoothies/coulis, breadcrumbs or croutons from excess bread
- Re-invent or re-cycle faulty batches: re-melt, re-form or re-shape
- Reduce bulk recipe sizes or create smaller batches more regularly
- Consider minimising samples that may be discarded at the end of the day, provide pictures of meals rather than displaying food or ingredients
- Use scales to measure ingredients and portions to ensure that the right amount is being unpacked and stored at the event
- Adequate refrigeration and/or bain maries at the event can ensure food stays edible for longer
- Provide bins for separation of avoidable food waste – follow standard food safety practices
- Check daily supply is meeting daily demand of the event – freeze surplus prepared ingredients or use the next day
- Cook small amounts of food more often – large batches of cooking can lead to unsold food and avoidable food waste
- Consider fluctuations between busy and slow periods and note the time of day these occur e.g. breakfast, lunch, dinner
- Store your waste cooking oil separate for collection and reuse
- Serve consistent portion sizes – use standard spoon and cup measurements for consistency
- Offer flexibility for customers to choose ingredients e.g. no salad or onions
- Consider how edible garnishes can generate avoidable food waste
- Observe food waste after it has left your stall, time permitting
- Use stories to inform your customers about your avoidable food waste efforts e.g. signage such as blackboards and posters about this FoodStallSavers initiative
- In the closing hours of the event, offer discounted meals or meals for free to avoid footing the bill for transportation and disposal
- Choose the right storage area and containers on-site at the event
- Provide feedback to event organisers after the event on avoidable food waste management and what they can do to help you in the future
- Plan for adequate transportation methods (refrigeration, heating etc.) both before and after the event
- Consider if transportation methods are causing damage to ingredients being returned to storage after event
- When handling and storing food waste, follow food safety standards and consider health and safety e.g. lifting and carrying heavy containers
- Give leftover food to family and staff
- Donate to a food charity* (e.g. Foodbank, OzHarvest and SecondBite) – discuss with your Event Organiser
- As a last resort:
- compost avoidable food waste
- generate energy through anaerobic digestion technologies (contact your local council for options)
- donate end-use compost to gardening or community sustainability groups to grow more food for you
*Note – before you donate food to a charitable or not-for-profit organisation you or the Event Organiser should contact that organisation to find out what they can or cannot accept
STEP 3. Create an Action Plan for your list of initiatives
From the list of potential initiatives in Step 2, begin with just one action from each stage and create a personalised and realistic list of actions that you can take. The simple Action Plan here might help you and allow you to designate who needs to take the action and when.